Just after I finished teaching my 2nd Christmas House class at the local store in December, a Facebook follower who lives too far away to make it to the class asked if I would be willing to write a series of technique tutorials for my followers. When I first started my website I still made most of my houses out of aluminum cans, so didn’t share how to paint or glitter a house as I really didn’t know how. Over time, I added kits and the local classes, and I (sadly) rarely make a house out of aluminum cans anymore. Over the last 3+ years I too have had to learn how to paint, glitter, texture, etc.
In my class I start with a list of supplies. This list is ever changing as I discover new items, so check back often. However, if you are about to make your 1st Putz style house and you are not sure you are going to enjoy it, do NOT go out and buy a bunch of supplies. Go to the Dollar Store and buy a small bottle of tacky glue, a couple of paint brushes, and a few colors of acrylic paint. If you want to glitter your house, buy a bottle of Modge Podge and glitter (they usually have a few seasonal colors.) Only after you discover if you enjoy making houses should you buy more supplies.
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If You Cut Your Own Buildings
I am often asked what software I use to design my buildings. I use the free program Inkscape to design all of my buildings, then import the finished design into Cricut Design Space to cut. I tried to learn how to use Inkcape from YouTube Videos, but there was too much thrown at me too fast, and a lot of it didn’t apply. Eventually I took Jennifer Maker’s Cut Above SVG Design Course online. She teaches only what you need to make a SVG, and the last unit covers how to make a 3D building. I now use more of Inkscape than she taught in the class, but it was a great foundation. Cricut Design Space has changed how they import externally designed SVGs since I took the class in 2020. If your design doesn’t import into Design Space at the right size, contact me and I’ll walk you through the settings you need.
Electronic Cutting Machine
There are several different companies that make cutting machines, but I started with the Cricut Explore Air 2 and eventually bought several Cricut Makers once I started selling kits. You only need one – I bought the additional machines so I can cut multiple kits at once. I like the Maker more than the Explore because it has a scoring wheel that is very precise. The scoring pen the Explore uses always offsets the score lines more than I like, as does my Makers if I use the scoring pen instead of the scoring wheel. Some people prefer to cut out dashes instead of scoring their tabs, but I don’t like the look and prefer to score. Not every company’s cutting machines have the ability to score.
Watch for sales as Cricut puts their machines on sale several times a year. Since I rarely cut vinyl, I don’t see the need to spend the extra money for the Cricut Maker 3.
Machine Cutting Mats
I am not affiliated with Cricut, so I don’t feel the necessity of promoting their mats. I used to think their mats were superior, but I have detected a decrease in quality the last few years. The last set of 12″ x 24″ cutting mats I bought from Cricut were so uneven that most of my cardboard would cut through, but some parts of the mat did not. I now exclusively use the green Nicapa Cutting Mats that I buy from Amazon. If you take care of your mats they will last for years. You can even re-stick them. Please be aware that cutting cardboard and paper will leave fibers on your mats and you will have to clean your mats more often than if you cut vinyl.
While I use the Cricut Fine-Point blades that come with the machine for lighter material, I feel I get a better cut in cardboard using the Deep-Cut Blade. While I bought the Cricut Black housing so I didn’t mix up my blades, I have been buying the deep cut replacement blades from Miss Kate Cuttables. So far I have been very happy with the quality.
Manual Cutting / Embossing Machine
If you are making houses, there are many fun accessory cutting dies you can use to decorate your buildings. I have the Sizzix Big Shot, and multiple Thinlit cutting dies as well as embossing folders. I stopped linking to specific cutting dies and embossing folders as they are constantly getting discontinued.
Cutting Material – Cardboard
Everybody has their favorite type of cardboard or chipboard, and I am no exception. I prefer to use all white cardboard as the natural colored chipboard sheds on your cutting mats, and you have to paint with gesso or a base coat of white paint if you want a light colored house. I started out using white Cricut Kraft Board, but soon wanted sheets larger than 12″ x 12.” I eventually discovered Accent Opaque 18″ x 12″ 120 lb Covered Cardstock. It is the same thickness as Cricut Kraft Board. Unfortunately, at the time I write this you have to buy 4 reams at once from Amazon. You may find other sources that will sell it to you a ream at a time.
Cutting Material – Colored Cardstock
If I am going to use a colored cardstock, I find the 80 lb. way too light. I almost always make my buildings out of the 120 lb. weight material above, but sometimes will cut some elements like window frames out of colored cover cardstock. If I want a metallic look, I use 105 lb. solid core Stardream Cover Cardstock by Cardstock Warehouse. If I don’t want metallic, I use 100 lb. solid core Cover Cardstock, also by Cardstock Warehouse. They are also now carrying 105 lb. non-metallic Cover Cardstock on their website, but I haven’t ordered and tried it yet.
For Pre-Cut Buildings or Kits
Gluing/ Painting/ Cutting Surface
I don’t know how I ever lived without this! Every day I use my We R Memory Keepers Glass Mat to glue, paint, stencil or cut on. It cleans up with a disinfecting wipe. I bought mine from Michaels with a 50% off coupon. Other companies make similar media mats, but I prefer the light color of this one (and the price with the coupon.)
Because my large glass media mat is usually covered with still-wet painted or stenciled items, I have trouble finding a clean area upon which to to make small cuts. I also bought myself a smaller ( 9″ x 12″) glass media mat by Glassboard Studio that I keep on a separate surface. This one is interesting as it has a magnetic metal backing. With their super strong magnets (purchased separately) I don’t need to use painter’s tape to hold down items when I am stenciling or even gluing them. I had bought my We R Memory Keeper Glass Mat before I bought this smaller one, and wanted the ability to use magnets with the larger mat also. I went out to Home Depot and bought a 12″ x 18″ 26 gauge plated steel sheet which I slipped under 1/2 of my larger mat. I thought I might have to glue it onto the bottom of my glass mat, but it wasn’t necessary. The super strong magnets hold everything tight on my mat.
I no longer use a self-healing cutting mat. I prefer cutting on the glass media mats.
Craft Knife & Scissors
My favorite craft knife is the Excel Knife I bought from Amazon. It is nice in that it uses the inexpensive X-Acto craft blades allowing me to change them out often to have a sharp blade, but the blade doesn’t work its way loose like the blade in my X-Acto knife often did.
I also use my Joyce Chen Kitchen Scissors every day. I bought them back in 2014 and they seem as sharp as when I first bought them. I also love the red handle as they are easy to find when I put them down in odd places in my craft room.
Metal Edged Ruler
Another necessity is a stainless steel office ruler with a non-slip cork base. You will use it with your craft blade when you need to cut materials such as foam base by hand. I like this one as it has both inches and cm.
In addition, buy yourself a 6″ clear plastic ruler at the Dollar Store. You will need it for folding your houses.
Bone folders are used to score, crease or burnish paper. They are particularly good at making sharp folds when you are using cardstock or cardboard. Having used several different ones over the years, I like this Bone Folder by EK Tools as it has a nice sharp point that is great for scoring.
Mini Scoring Board
Another item that can be helpful if you think you may want to create often faux siding is a mini scoring board. The scoring board will help you create precisely evenly spaced siding lines. However, the irregular lines that you can achieve with just a bone folder and your steel ruler are equally attractive.
This is going to be a very personal choice for you. I suggest you start out with Aleene’s Try Me Size Tacky Pack sampler and try out each of the glues to see if you have a favorite. If you are new to making houses, start with Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue as this will give you the longest time to reposition items. However, you will quickly want a glue that grabs faster.
For cardboard, I mostly use Aleene’s Fast Grab Tacky Glue. Recently, however, I used a metallic paint on the walls of a building, and I had a hard time getting the metallic to metallic walls to stick together. Eventually, I tried Aleene’s Turbo Tacky Glue and was successful with that. This is why I always have a variety of glues on hand. If one doesn’t work, I try another.
For lighter cardstock, I use Art Glitter Glue. Some people like Bearly Art Glue better as you have a little extra time to reposition your paper before it dries. I’ve used both and like the fast grab of Art Glitter Glue. If your paper is warping, you are using too much glue! If you live in a cold environment. Art Glitter Glue should not be shipped in cold weather.
If you are gluing together aluminum cans, or attaching a metal item to your cardboard house, use Aleene’s The Ultimate Glue.
Bottles for Glue
Once you decide on which glue you want to use, you may want to buy it in bigger bottles as it is much cheaper. However, I never like to hold a bottle that is larger than 2 ounces as it fatigues my hands. And a bottle with with the proper dispensing tip is invaluable. Too narrow, and it will plug up the thicker glues. Too wide, and you will get glue everywhere. With a little judicious buying and switching out of bottles, you will find the right bottles/ tips for you.
For the thicker glues like Aleene’s Fast Grab Tacky Glue and Aleene’s Turbo Tacky Glue, I find the 2 ounce Turbo Tacky Glue with the Needle nose applicator ideal. I bought 2 of them, then moved my glues around to put the Fast Grab Tacky glue in the 2nd bottle. If you prefer an empty bottle alternative, these 1 oz Needle Tip Squeeze Bottles are very similar.
For the thinner glues like Art glitter Glue or Bearly Art Glue, the 2 oz Bearly Art Glue with the Tip Kit is perfect. Once again you can buy 2 and move your glues around. If you want an empty bottle alternative, these 1 ounce Needle Tip applicators from Hobby Lobby work great. I haven’t bought them, but these Precision Tip Applicator Bottles on Amazon look like they use the same tips.
I tried out needle tips on bottles that were smaller than the one ounce bottles, but found them too hard to refill.
There are so many different paints you can use! Since I was still using a lot of aluminum when I first bought my paints. I bought a set of multi-surface paints from FolkArt, as well as several multi-surface paints from Craftsmart (Michael’s brand.) When I started teaching classes, I bought the regular Craftsmart Acrylic Paint Sets, as well as another set of acrylic paints and a set of Metallic paints from Amazon. They have all worked fine.
The owner of the store where I teach the classes doesn’t want loose glitter in her store (I quite understand!) I’ve bought several different paints with glitter in them for the class participants to use. So far my preference has been for paints with fine glitter like DecoArt Glamour Dust and Folkart Glitterific Fine.
I also always bring Dragonfly Glaze to class. If you paint your building and aren’t happy with the colors, I suggest painting on Dragonfly Glaze. It is a color-shifting glaze, and does not fully cover the base paint, but gives it an iridescent shine.
Get yourself a decent set of paint brushes with several different sizes. At a minimum get flat and angled brushes. Depending on what items you will be painting, you may want round or Filbert brushes also.
Other Items for Coloring Houses
Besides paints, I also use Glitter Gel Pens for items with tiny details. In addition, I tell people in my classes they can look beyond acrylic paints to color their houses. I bring Tempera Paint Sticks, as well as Crayons for the children in the classes. I’ve also seen houses painted with Watercolor Paints. The all give your houses very different looks.
Inks for Aging
If you want to give an aged or distressed look to your building after you paint it, you can use Ranger Distress Inks or Distress Crayons. I like to smudge the Distress Inks onto the corners, stonework and edges of the roof using Finger Craft Sponges.
Only a few items are needed if you are going to add a textured look to your building by stenciling on bricks or stonework. I have shared patterns for several stencils on this website like the Stacked Stone Wall Stencil. I like milky white Blank Stencil Sheets when I cut my own as I can find them again if I put them down. For texture, my favorite is the Translucent Grit Paste by Tim Holtz/Ranger. You will also need a Palette Knife.
Materials to Glitter a House
I have a love/hate relationship with loose glitter. To glitter a house without using loose glitter you can use the glitter paints I listed above. If you want to use loose glitter, which has the advantage of giving you greater control over type of glitter and colors, use Matte Mod Podge over your painted house. I like to do one side of the house at a time, and tend to use a Sponge Brush. Sprinkle with a fine clear glitter so the color of your house still shows through. My favorite glitter is Heminway UltraFine Sparkle Glitter. However, since the last time I bought it the white glitter has been changed to white iridescent. If you do not want an iridescent glitter, a similar glitter is the Tim Holtz/Ranger Clear Rock Candy Distress Glitter, though this glitter is not all ultra fine. I am trying out several other glitters to see if I find a new favorite.
While you can add fine sand to your paint to create a stucco look, I have had better luck using Winsor & Newton Galeria Acrylic Medium Sand Texture Gel for the stucco. This texture gel is lighter weight than the Tim Holtz Distress Grit Paste that I use to make bricks and stone walkways, and I believe it makes a more realistic stucco. Brush it on before you paint.
To Make Snow
There are quite a few different options for snow you will find on the internet. Aleene’s makes both True Snow and Glitter Snow, while DecoArt makes Snow-Tex. I have used all three in a pinch, however, they go on thicker than I like. Lucy Foxworth of Paper Glitter Glue adds a little Modge Podge and white paint to her Snow-Tex to make it thinner.
I make up my own snow. I start with medium weight modeling paste, to which I add a couple of Tablespoons each of Matte Mod Podge and white acrylic paint, then add a little Woodland Scenics Snow Flake Snow and White Heminway Ultra Fine Sparkle Glitter until I get the consistency I want. Since I like my snow to sparkle in the light, after I brush the snow onto my roof I sprinkle it heavily with a mixture of the Snow Flake Snow, Ultrafine white glitter, and Diamond Dust. I mix the Snow Flake Snow and the ultrafine glitter roughly half and half in a cup container, then add the Diamond Dust until I am happy with how it looks. I make sure I sprinkle over a piece of butcher paper and return any excess to my storage cup.
That is all I have for now! As I discover new tools and supplies I will continue to update this page.
Next tutorial, I will share the tips and tricks I cover in my classes.
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